he occasion marks Casey’s second solo exhibition with PRIMARY, and showcases sculptural, installation works, and seventy-eight (78) 2-D collage inspired by A.E. Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith’s 1910 tarot deck, famously known as the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck.
You don’t buy Tarot cards, they come to you. Not to say that you can’t buy them, but it’s unadvised. Autumn Casey received hers when she was 18, at a Christmas party, and was thus initiated.
This deck is the product of three year’s work. Or, put another way, three year’s life. Its creation ran alongside Casey’s other work-her art, her music. It was the downbeat, the noise between the notes.
Collaged out of art history textbooks, pages of illustrated Shakespeare, books on astronomy and biology, home décor. Not to mention hand drawings and scraps found elsewhere. The entire world pared down and combined, two unlike things that become one composition: this is what collage is. The world folding back on itself, resting on a jagged edge.
Each simple composition tendrils out into her life and the lives of the viewers, either suggesting meaning or remaining mute.
It’s difficult to assign a lineage when dealing with a secret history. These began at that Christmas party, shot forward through years of turbulence, dipped back through punk, to Hannah Höch, and then to Pamela Colman Smith, who designed the go-to Tarot deck along with A.E. Waite in 1910.
It has been said that the 78 cards of the Tarot can be viewed as a massive calendar, accurate for 2,200 years.
The Rider-Waite-Smith deck is famous for its symbolist vibe, its subconscious heft, and yet it’s also famous for being famous. Created during the infancy of popular culture, when printing and distribution networks were being perfected, it became disseminated, but standardized. That is collage. That is DIY. Taking what exists and making it your own.
Finding origin in Modernism’s cataclysm, the cards also summon Madame Sosostris,
T.S. Eliot’s “wisest woman in Europe/ with a wicked pack of cards.” Unfortunately, this Wasteland clairvoyant is beset with a bad cold, suggesting that even if you can see into the future, certain maladies are unavoidable.
She pulls the Phoenician Sailor, Belladonna, the Man with Three Staves, the Wheel, The One-Eyed Merchant, and one obscured card. But this is not about her hand. When Casey finished this deck she pulled three cards: Two of Pentacles, the Hanged Man, Lovers Reversed.
A coincidence: Madame Sosostris mentions the Hanged Man as the card she does not find, which at first seems fortunate-hanged men being what they are. However, the card’s meaning is much more tangled. It suggests inversion, overturning the old, seeing things anew. It represents contemplation, reflection.
Tarot cards are images, and function as such. They all have positive and negative attributes; they shift depending on their relationship to other images, and to the viewer herself.
Reflecting upon these three, Casey wrote a few lines:
While Hanging Upside Down
Watching Lovers Fall from Grace
Underneath the Ground.
But to stay in the Wasteland a little while longer-the fractured narrative, the myriad points of view, the blend of slang and arcana: all of this finds echo in collage, and in Casey’s Tarot deck.
That the same symbology can have infinite outcomes, that the world, in all its variety, can be covered by 78 archetypes, this is what Tarot teaches you.
That a rectangle contains a game of chance, a guide of fate, and a map of days. The tarot teaches you that also. It is also what you learn from art.